While the car rental industry held steady, guest satisfaction for hotels and the online travel agency industry suffered. - Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Shriya21.

While the car rental industry held steady, guest satisfaction for hotels and the online travel agency industry suffered.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Shriya21.

Despite the challenges from the past year, the car rental industry overall has kept customer satisfaction at the same level posted before Covid-19, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) American Customer Satisfaction Travel Report 2020-2021. Following its ACSI debut in 2020, the car rental industry has a satisfaction score of 76.

New results from the ACSI reveal that only airlines are keeping customer satisfaction moving in a positive direction during the pandemic. While the car rental industry holds steady, guest satisfaction for hotels takes a U-turn with ACSI losses for nearly every major chain. The online travel agency industry has reached an all-time ACSI low for customer satisfaction.

When Covid-19 arrived in 2020, rental car demand plunged as Americans didn’t travel and stayed home. As a result, Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and Avis Budget’s revenues dropped 67% year over year during the second quarter. In response to less business, many of the large rental car companies sold off big portions of their fleets. Recently, this has caused car rental shortages as Americans are starting to travel again in 2021. As travel demand increases, the car rental industry’s satisfaction score could face drops this year.

For the second year, Enterprise Rent-A-Car takes the top spot for customer satisfaction at 78. This past year, Enterprise customers think the reservation process hasn’t been as easy during the pandemic, but they are more pleased than before with the convenience of the company’s pick-up and drop-off locations.

Dollar Rent A Car rises 4% to gain the second spot at 77, beating out Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental. Dollar increases its satisfaction rating due to higher value perceptions. Customers are also happier with Dollar’s fees for optional services and upgrades. Alamo drops 1% to 76, followed by Avis Car Rental, Hertz, and National Car Rental all tied at 75. Budget Car Rental and Thrifty Car Rental finish at 73 and 72, respectively, while the group of smaller companies stays at 71, the lowest score in the industry. Thrifty has gained 4% in its rating due to its loyalty program, but it still rates below the other companies.

Looking at the industry overall, the car rental customer experience shows some changes during the pandemic. Overall, the drop-off process has been running more smoothly than the pick-up process. Dropping off cars is a faster process than picking them up. In terms of helpfulness, satisfaction with pick-up staff drops 2% as compared to drop-off staff (drops 1%).

Car rental loyalty programs show the most improvement (up 3%) and are top rated among the four travel industries. On the other hand, website satisfaction has decreased 2% and reservations haven’t been as easy to make (drops 2%).

Vehicle appearance and cleanliness dips slightly (1%), but there have been more stringent expectations for sanitization. 

New to the ACSI measurement in 2021, car rental’s mobile apps are rated below both airlines and hotels for quality and reliability (79).

Overall, car rental companies do a better job of handling complaints for business customers versus personal renters. Although more business customers report issuing a complaint amid the pandemic (46% compared to 40% in 2020), their satisfaction stays the same at 75. Personal renters have more to complain about than before the pandemic, but their satisfaction level improved 10% to 69.

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